Video Cameras Premier At Sobriety Checkpoint

July 03, 1991|By Michael James | Michael James,Staff writer

County police arrested a record-high 18 people Friday during a drunken driving roadblock that gave the officers' latest weapon, a video camera, its trial run.

The roadblock, set up on U.S. 40 just insidethe border with Baltimore County, checked approximately 550 motorists and was the first time county police have used a video camera to record field sobriety tests.

Four video cameras were donated to Howard County police by Aetna Life and Casualty and the Maryland branch of Mothers Against Drunk Driving. Police agencies in Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Frederick and Washington counties also were given cameras, as were Baltimore City police.

"We had the camera out on Friday more as a test than anything else," said county police spokesman Sgt. Gary L. Gardner. "We still haven't drawn up a policy yet on how we will be using the cameras."

Aetna, which released figures last week showing that it loses about $200 million a year as a result of drunken-driving accidents, has donated 27 video cameras at $1,300 each to Maryland police agencies.

The cameras, which are to be mounted inside patrol cars, will videotape officers putting suspected drunken drivers through the field sobriety test.

County police expect to use the cameras mainly on trafficstops during routine patrols, but taping may also be used during thesobriety checkpoints, Gardner said. Police typically conduct six roadblocks a year.

Policies pertaining to use of the cameras -- such as what tests would be videotaped and how long the officer would be required to keep the camera running -- will be written into departmentmanuals in the next few weeks, Gardner said.

Friday's checkpoint,which was scheduled to coincide with the July 4 holiday weekend and the national kick-off of "Sobriety Checkpoints Week," was the second that police have conducted in 1991. The other checkpoint resulted in 11 arrests.

Police estimate they have arrested an average of 11 people at the checkpoints. Friday's total of 18 is the highest at any single county roadblock. County police have arrested 213 people on drunken-driving charges since they began using the roadblocks in 1988.

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